What's Tony Thinking

Buttigieg v. Pence


I’ve been very intrigued by Pete Buttigieg, aka “Mayor Pete.” While it’s true that it’s a big jump from Mayor of South Bend to the White House, the electorate pretty well set aside prior relevant experience as a criterion with the election of the incumbent.

Besides, being a big city mayor may well translate more to the Presidency than serving in Congress (Beto and a couple others) or even that being in the Senate (multiples). Mayors have to get stuff done. They have to solve actual problems that people care about. They have to govern.

Of course, the other big challenge facing Buttigieg is that he is gay. I admire the way he has directly addressed this, even doing so theologically. His line, more or less, “If you have an issue with me (as a gay man), your issue is not with me, sir, but with our Creator,” throws down the gauntlet while standing up for himself.

Is the country ready for a gay President? Well, that probably depends on the man himself. Buttigieg has a very strong resume. He is smart, decent and an appealing human being.

One of my gay friends reports that Mayor Pete is already getting it from the other side, taking some shots for “not being gay enough.” Jeez.

This week Buttigieg and Vice President Mike Pence traded jabs. Pence is well known for embrace of conservative Christianity.

The place where Buttigieg is on firm ground here is asking what a self-professed Christian, Pence, and by extension the overwhelming number of evangelicals who joined Pence, are doing in the pocket of a man whose life defies the virtues of decency, honesty and fidelity.

Mayor Peter went so far as to call Pence, “the cheerleader for the porn star Presidency.” I liked that one.

And that is the issue for evangelicals supporting Trump. They have hooked their wagon not to a rising star but to a human black hole. Efforts to frame Trump as a changed, suddenly Christian man (Paula White, Jerry Falwell) have one big problem, i.e. Trump himself.

But I think Tim Egan was right in adding a cautionary note here, for Mayor Pete and for other progressives. Egan writes,

“Buttigieg is right to call him on this. He’s right to attack Pence’s hypocrisy. But the moral high ground is a fragile perch, best visited on rare occasions. He’s thrown down a needed challenge. Now let Trump and Pence try to prove him wrong.”

I would take Egan’s cautionary note a little further. While I agree that the conservative Christian embrace of Trump (and vice-versa) invites the charge of hypocrisy, I also think progressives need to be careful about their own “holier-than-thou” tendency.

Moreover, progressives need to make a better effort to understand how some evangelicals have agreed to hold their nose and support Trump as the lesser of two evils.

Their worry, or fear, is that there is a cultural agenda that disses and undermines a way of life that centers on traditional marriage, more traditional male/ female roles, and a priority on children and parenting.

While one can support marriage equality and GLBTQ rights, it isn’t necessary to charge traditionalists with being haters or fascists. There are a fair number of decent people who don’t support gay marriage. Many are willing to live and let live, but it’s not what they want for themselves or would prefer for their children. This is what Pence is talking about when he responds to Buttigieg by saying, “Don’t attack my faith.”

Moreover, the folks in this world fear what they see as a cultural agenda promoted by Hollywood, the entertainment industry and identity politics in academic world that has no coherent sexual ethic at all. If you want to find an intelligent defense of this perspective go to Rod Dreher’s blog. Dreher is the author of the Benedict Option.

They have a point there.

Part of the reason that Mayor Pete will not seem “gay enough” for some is that he is so clearly committed to the covenant of marriage and to his Christian faith.

During the Clinton years a slogan that evangelicals repeated as a mantra was “Character Counts.” Personally, I agree with that. And I wish that evangelicals would now apply that mantra to Trump, as some in fact are. That’s what Buttigieg is saying. On that, more power to him.


Categories: Uncategorized